My Journey through Films and Film Songs 7

Continued from Previous Page

I returned to Nagpur at the beginning of the academic session in 1952 to continue my education. I rejoined College of Science for postgraduation in Chemistry. My second brother AVR Murty was in his final year for M Sc in Mathematics. I joined him in the lodge in Sitabuldi where we had stayed earlier.

My father’s finances were in a poor state. It was tough for him to defray the expenses of my third brother who was in the hostel of the Engineering College in Jabalpur. Supporting two other sons living in a rented room in Nagpur would force him to borrow beyond his means to repay. Having sensed this during my one year stay in Venkatnagar, I grabbed the first opportunity that offered itself to earn for my upkeep in Nagpur, in the shape of coaching a youngster in high school. My reputation as a tutor travelled and soon I had enough income to be completely independent of my father. My brother Murty too felt it was time to pitch in to help the family. Giving up his desire to complete post graduation, he joined Indian Meteorological Department after a short spell of training in Pune (then called Poona).

My brother Murty and I tried to sing our favourite songs despite our lack of training in music. To learn a song, we would stop near the venue of a function, where the song was being played, and try to memorize the tune and words. Sometimes, we would borrow the gramophone record of a new song and play it on the gramophone of an acquaintance repeatedly to get the tune and lyrics. The words could also be found in the cheap song books loudly peddled by hawkers in front of every cinema hall, often to the amusement of listeners.

Sheesh Mahal ek anna
Udan khatola ek anna
Boot Polish ek anna
Ladki ek anna
Mashuqa ek anna

They were often badly printed and riddled with errors. Anther complication  was that the lyrics contained several Urdu words with which we were not familiar. At school we had learnt pure Hindi with sparse Urdu words and expressions. Conversational Hindi in Nagpur too did not have many Urdu words. Dialogues and songs in Hindi films were full of Urdu words, some of which we struggled to understand. Love songs used staple terms like mohabbat, mehboob, intezar, iqrar, beqarar, etc. We built up our Urdu vocabulary with the help of dialogues and lyrics of Hindi films. While most Hindi films had dialogues in Hindi written by writers like Kidar Sharma, Prem Dhawan and Rajinder Krishan, Urdu writers like Agha Jani Kashmiri, Shaheed Lateef, Saadat Hasan Manto and Kamal Amrohi felt free to use difficult words that we could only understand by the context. In Bombay Talkies film Mahal, for example, it took me much time to comprehend the import of the following dualogue between Ashok Kumar and Kanu Roy,

AK: Ye waham nahin haqeeqat hai
KN: Agar ye haqeeqat hai to khatarnaq hai.

Content in Urdu waned in subsequent years. I recall a conversation with Mansoor Khan, son of well-known producer-director Nazir Hussain (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Yadon ki baaraat, Hum kisise kam nahin), whom I met at a niece’s wedding in Pune in 2007. Mansoor said that when he launched his debut film Qayamat se qayamat tak, in 1988, his distributors felt that filmgoers would not follow the meaning of the title. He recalled that in the old days, the language of films shown on the Censor Certificate was often Urdu.

Thanks to the internet, it is now possible to access the lyrics, and related information, of any film song with just a few taps on a smart phone. Several websites provide the facility, but the accuracy of the lyrics continues to be unreliable. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020-21, our family, like many others I am sure, took to singing and sharing film songs. That led us to the search for lyrics and sometimes the results were hilarious and bizarre. A typical example is this beautiful song sung by Kanan Devi for Hospital under the baton of Kamal Dasgupta,

Prabhuji Prabhuji Rakho Laaj Hamari 

The original lyrics for the first few lines of the song were,

Prabhuji Prabhuji
Tum rakho laaj hamaari
Man ki baat chhupi nahi tumse
Goverdhan giridhari

The lyric available on the website of is,

Prabhuji Prabhuji
Tum rakho laaj hamaari
Man ki baat chhupi nahi sabse
Joban dhalke sari

and in the first stanza the words,

Chandi ka tha jaal bichhaya
Aur pinjra tha sone ka

Man pnchhi isme fasana tha

have become,

kya vidhata jaal bichhaya
aur birajai ka taro me aaya
man panchhi usme samta
kismat me tha dukho ne jana

I recall another song, a Pankaj Mullick favourite we learnt to sing in the 1940s. Piya milan ko jana from a film called Kapala kundala (1939).

Piya milan ko jana 

The lyric written by Arzoo Lucknowi contains some unusual words that we could neither make out nor understand when we picked up the words by listening to the song played on the radio. We sang freely unmindful of the meaning. The song depicts the feelings of a woman contemplating the prospect of a secret rendezvous with her lover, mindful of social norms, desirous, yet hesitant. In the second stanza, she refers to silencing her anklets, but I found the words that follow payal ko bandh ke incomprehensible. The choice was between uththi chubh nag ke and uththi chubh nan ke, neither of which made sense to me. Neither the film nor a video clipping of the song is available to understand the context, facial expressions or gestures of the artists featured in the song. Repeated listening and reference to lyric websites having proved futile, I sought help from friends who had a better grasp of the language. The answer I got from KL Pande, my former railway colleague, renowned musicologist, and author of Hindi Cinerag Encyclopedia, seemed appropriate. I quote,

“It is payal ko bandh ke uththi chubh nan ke. While wearing a Payal, first the hook is lifted, then it is inserted in the loop and finally pressed to its original position. Here, ‘Uthi Chubh’ means lifted hook and ‘Naanke’ means pressing to make smooth, so that firstly it does not come out and secondly it becomes smooth like the original position.”

However, while working on this article, I chanced upon another elucidation posted as late as April 2023 on a website called “Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs” I quote,

uththi chubh naangh ke This line is the most cryptic. It took the most discussion and search through the Shabd Kosh to decipher. The word chubh sounds as such when sung in the song, but the word actually is choobh.  Here we find Aarzoo Sb at his cryptic best. This word is the second half part of a very old Hindi phrase oobh-choobh. Aarzoo Sb truncated it and used only half the phrase, probably in the interest of the meter of the song, but also in the interest of the idea being conveyed. Oobh-choob means – if one sees an object or a person floating in water, it disappears and appears alternatively in the waves. The word or phrase for this in Hindi is oobh-choobh.  Maybe this phrase is an abbreviated form of ubharna-chhupna. So, there is this dilemma in the damsel’s mind – to go or not to go. The mind is like a floating object in the waves of water, sometimes above the surface, and sometimes submerged – go or don’t go. Then the word naangh.  Once again, a very old usage, which means the same as laangh. So, she is in dilemma at first, but then she decides to go. So uththi chubh naangh ke - she gets up overcoming her dilemma, or rather overcoming her choobh, that part of the thought that says don’t go. And decides she has to go.”

Which explanation is correct? Readers may find it rewarding to probe further. Whatever the answer, I am thrilled and heartened to find people trying to delve into the music and lyrics of a song more than eight decades old. It exemplifies the influence of film songs on people, the theme of my articles.

Before leaving this song, let us look at the last stanza.

bujhe diye andheri rat
aankhon par dono hath

The woman imagines a dark night with the lights out, her hands shading her eyes to penetrate the darkness. The next line is, kaise kate kathin bath, meaning, how will this difficult time pass? Or, should the words be, more aptly, kaise kate kathin bat, that is, how will I negotiate the difficult path? The last line of the stanza shows her resolve, chal kar aajmana, let’s go and try it.

Returning to my memories, to keep track of the lyrics, we began to note them down in notebooks. My brother acquired a nicely bound handbook with the word Vademecum embossed in silver on its black cover. It was his prized possession and contained the lyrics of his favourite songs each with the name of the film, singer and music director. In course of time, the Vademecum devolved on my younger siblings, who found it informative and rewarding.  I had my own notebook, albeit not so showy. Later, I added the name of the lyricist against each song.

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Ramarao Annavarapu

Top | Cinema

Views: 503      Comments: 2

Comment I enjoyed reading it. Similar are stories of our lives. My father who discouraged the practice of using guidebooks, private tuitions, etc. in place of homework and class work decided to accept a publisher's request to write a guidebook only to help partly defray the cost of my stay in Waltair to pursue my honors in mathematical physics. This hardship gave me enough incentive to work hard to get a University Studentship that defrayed a part of my expenses.

T Krishna Kumar
24-Aug-2023 16:17 PM

Comment Great work,keep it up

22-Aug-2023 07:49 AM

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